POLITICS NORTH DAKOTA: 1/4 or more of votes already cast
BISMARCK -- North Dakotans are embracing early voting in a big way. A quarter or more of North Dakota voters may have already cast their ballots, election officials said Thursday, with the figure growing by thousands per day. "What I find interes...
BISMARCK -- North Dakotans are embracing early voting in a big way.
A quarter or more of North Dakota voters may have already cast their ballots, election officials said Thursday, with the figure growing by thousands per day.
"What I find interesting ... is the fact that more than 25 percent of people have made up their minds and voted, and will no longer be listening to the (campaign) ads out there," Secretary of State Al Jaeger quipped Thursday.
In the 21 vote-by-mail counties, more than two-thirds of the nearly 33,000 ballots that were distributed have already been returned, Jaeger said. In the remaining 32 counties, nearly three-quarters of the 45,000 voters who asked for absentee ballots have already returned them, he said.
Six counties with early voting precincts reported more than 20,000 voters so far as of Thursday noon, but Jaeger said it is "a moving target that is going higher and higher" with auditors in those counties continuing to report larger numbers often.
Counting absentee ballots already returned, plus early voters, it means about 77,000 votes cast. Total votes cast statewide in the 2004 presidential election was 316,000, a turnout of 65 percent.
Six counties that opened early voting precincts in the past 10 days are finding it hugely popular.
"I don't think we could go back to not having it," said Cass County Auditor Mike Montplasir.
Since Stark County opened its early voting precinct Oct. 20, nearly 2,400 early voters have cast ballots as of Thursday afternoon. In the last presidential election, 2004, the total number of voters in the county who participated was 10,502.
Cass County's early voting precinct at the Doublewood Inn in Fargo also opened Oct. 20 and since then has seen nearly 14,000 voters as of mid-afternoon Thursday, Montplasir said.
Counting 7,000 absentee ballots already received in Cass County, the total number of people who've already voted is well over a quarter of what the eventual total voting would be even in a heavy turnout, Montplasir said.
"We're not going to get 80,000 voters," he said. In 2004, the Cass turnout was 67,153.
Montaplasir estimates the county probably has 90,000 to 100,000 people of voting age.
The four counties with early voting, in addition to Cass and Stark, are Burleigh, Grand Forks, Stutsman and Ward.
Cole reports for Forum Communications Co., which owns the Herald.